Four Techniques for Creative Revolutions
To spur your mind to new action, think combination, adaptation, substitution, and rearrangement.
What are some of the best techniques for using our creative faculties more effectively to solve problems, make decisions, achieve goals, and better fulfill our ultimate human responsibility, which is to think? Here are a few I have learned:
Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell during the day offers you the opportunity to consider new combinations. When you brush your teeth, you might think of a toothbrush that contains the toothpaste in the handle. You might combine your mirror with a motto reminding you to start the day right. It might read, “How can I increase my service today?” or “Have no small dreams!” That’s thinking combination. A simple pencil is a combination of wood, carbon, rubber, paint, and metal. You can come up with great ideas that can lead to profits, patents, and even billion-dollar companies by finding new combinations yourself. Here are a few ways entrepreneurs have profited from thinking combination.
Velcro was created through adaptation. In 1948, George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, returned from a walk through a field of weeds one day and found some cockleburs [burrs] clinging to his cloth jacket. After studying one of the cockleburs under a microscope, he noticed it was a maze of thin strands with burrs (or hooks) on the ends that cling to fabrics or animal fur. He then recognized the potential for a practical new fastener. It took eight years to experiment, develop, and perfect the invention, but now Velcro is a well-known, incredibly useful product. Velcro has even been further adapted for making all kinds of products better – from shoes that use Velcro instead of laces, to adjustable Velcro wrist straps on boxing gloves.
During the next year you are going to see the result of people thinking adaptation and coming up with ideas worth millions of dollars. Why couldn’t one of these people be you? The only limit to what you can achieve by adapting old products to new uses -old methods to new applications -is the limit of your own creativity.
When you think substitution, ask yourself how you might substitute a different idea, product, or material for the one now used. For example, soy burgers are the vegetarian’s substitute for meat products.
You can also take an existing product and make it better through thinking substitution. Take, for instance, luggage with wheels. This was a wonderful invention because it eliminated the need to carry luggage. But, for years the wheels were made of cheap plastic, often only a step better than dragging your luggage on the ground. It wasn’t until recently that someone decided to replace these cheap plastic wheels with the high-speed ball-bearing efficient wheels from Roller skates. This substitution created a better wheeled suitcase and made for happier travelers.
In short, don’t assume because a particular thing has always been used in the past, that you have to use it now. Perhaps there’s a substitution that will work better or last longer, or cost less, or be lighter, or more colorful, and so forth. Think substitution.
How about turning something upside down? What’s the problem with typical ketchup, mustard, and salad dressing bottles? It’s hard to get the contents out, especially when the contents are running low. The solution? Manufacturers are now creating the bottles to stand upside down so the contents are always easy to get out.
What do you work with that can benefit from this kind of thinking? What can you turn around … revolutionize?
Rearrange things, change pace, alter sequence, start from scratch. This type of thinking works for everyone. For instance, salespeople can use these creative techniques to discover new applications for products or services, new ways to emphasize customer benefits, new ideas or product combinations to solve customer problems, better ways to organize their time and effort.
If you want to spur your mind to new action, think combination, adaptation, substitution, and rearrangement. You’ll be amazed with the ideas you’ll develop. Before long, you’ll be thinking in each of these ways as a matter of daily course. This kind of thinking increases the scope of your mind power and enables you to achieve fuller use of your mental capabilities. Let your mind work for you. Take nothing for granted. Everything can be changed, improved. The only thing you can count on for certain is change. Don’t wait for it -be an agent of change. Help bring change about.